Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Wrinkly Facebook

We do love our Facebook don't we? And as it turns out, "we" isn't just the young'uns, it's the silver surfing community as well. They've got their own community site, Saga Zone. Imagine: a whole wide world of pensioners doddering around on discussion groups like "You know you were born in the 20s when..." and "If this group gets to 500,000 my daughter will name her child Frankenstein".

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Space rock: Cheap at twice the price.

So, if you are in New York, or can get there for this afternoon, and you also happen to be filthy stinking rich, then you can bid for some space rock. Apparently, it's a selection of the various meteorites that periodically strike the earth. With the smallest of them weighing just under a gram, it's unlikely that they are the famous dinosaur-extinction one. But apparently, one killed a cow in Venezuela in 1972.

At first, when I saw this, I thought that it was a bit strange, and that space-rock should be in museums being studied and what-not. But then, when all's said and done, it is only a lump of rock, and (apart from a magnificent "under the hammer" pun...) it's really fairly difficult to get all that excited about.

I won't be buying any space rock, partly because I'm poor, but partly because you could just find any old bit of rock, and pretend: "Yeah, it's a space rock *wink-wink*, bounced off a dinosaur as well, this one".

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Comedy Homos

Whilst looking for some funny named animals I came across Homo diluvii testis.

Whilst the proximity of the words Homo and testis made me snigger ever so slightly I was more taken with the story behind the fossil.

Discovered in 1735 the bones were thought to be the remains of a man who had witnessed Noah's Flood (and presumably a smug looking Noah drifting off into the distance in his ark). In fact the name Homo diluvii testis means the man who witnessed the flood.

It wasn't until the great French palaeontologist Georges L.Ch.F.D. Cuvier (middle names Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert) took a look at the specimen in 1812 did anyone realise that it wasn't actually a man at all. It was a salamander. Oops!

The species is now known as Andrias scheuchzeri. Andrias means "man-image", a relic of the original misinterpretation.

The fossil is still on display in Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands.

It's also interesting that it was given a Latin name 18 years before Linnaeus pronounced the idea - I'm not sure what's going on there, but will look into it.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Bacteria and you.

So, I was doing a bit of research for a project, and came across a couple of cracking facts. The sort of strange-but-true stuff that the Null feeds on. They both concern Probiotics, those "friendly bacteria" you hear about in those Yogurt drinks. In fact, I'd definitely recommend going to the Yakult site and having a look at the TV advert on that page....

Back? Well done. But of course that pretty (and almost entirely empty!) computer graphic of the gut really doesn't do justice to the VAST quantities of bacteria we have in us. It's estimated to be something like 100,000,000,000,000 little bacteria swimming about inside us. To put that (admittedly unimaginably vast) number into context, it's about ten times the number of cells that actually make up our body.

Even more amazing than that, in a "not-very-amazing-and-I-was-actually-going-to-have-some-dinner -but-I've-been-put-right-off-it" sort of way, bacteria actually make up roughly 60% of the weight of the average human poo. Rest assured, largely quite harmless, and rather good for us, actually. In fact, recently it's been found that that's what the appendix does for us, helps to restore these bacteria if they become disrupted. It's one to tick off the "useless" list.

I'm off for a yogurt... Mmmm... microbial....

Armpit Height

Loved Hayley's article this week - Little'uns are life's losers. At 5ft2 I was a bit shocked to find that the study claims I am a life loser. I mean there are the usual problems, getting arm-pitted at gigs, trousers never fitting, seeing up people's nostrils when you really don't want to... But there are advantages too, being able to shimmey infront of people at the bar, never banging our heads on things and being able to buying kid's sized socks (they are cheaper you know!)

Just a note to all you giants out there who are heartily laughing at your higher quality of life, just remember, our feet don't stick out the end of our beds and after all Kylie is a midget and thats good enough for me! If anybody needs some further support about their condition, click here.

Friday, 19 October 2007

James Watson proves his point

Here's a quote from James Watson a few years ago:

"One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid."

Isn't it nice of him to prove his own point with his recent narrow-minded, dull and stupid comments. Good one fella - three in one!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Swearing: now with added science.

So, apparently, swearing is no longer just good fun, (and entirely necessary, when your computer has just lost all of your music/essay/high scores on solitaire), but can actually be a major benefit to workplace morale. Researchers have found it not only enables them to express their feelings (damn, this computer is rather poor!), but improves solidarity between workers (damn, all our computers are rather poor!), and helps develop social relationships (your computer is rubbish too?; fancy a coffee?)

There are some helpful tips given by the researchers, however. Swearing in front of customers is a major no-no, and swearing at your boss or senior management is also apparently a bad idea, if you aren’t planning on getting fired any time soon.

I’ll give it a go.

“Scientology!”… Hmmm… “Creationism!”… getting warmer… “Holy test-tubes, Batman!”…

Maybe I need to get out of the lab and learn some proper swearing, before it starts to work…

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Don't let the tabloids near science!

While looking for papers and articles for my huge review article on millimetre waves I came across an article written by the Sun newspaper. Now don't get the wrong impression, normally I wouldn't be caught glancing at someone else's copy over their shoulder on the train but the article caught my eye.

Mm-waves have applications in security imaging and have been tested in airports for looking for guns/knives etc, however the images they obtain don't exactly leave much to the imagination in terms of your shape under your clothes. Anyway, the Sun (a terrible British tabloid might I add) reported on this technology. Deeming it like x-ray glasses that showed your private bits. First of all, scientists aren't going round the UK ionising the British public, mm-waves are harmless. And secondly they aren't exactly glasses, it's a huge machine that is not portable. I just hate the way that the general public are getting wrong info through the media and now are paranoid about another thing that they need not be. Although the question of privacy is one that scientists are having to deal with.

Also in my research (ahem) I found another article by the Sun about Hugh Grant who was in St Andrews for the golf and photographed with lots of girls, erm, being attentive. In any case, they reported it as St Andrews, Edinburgh. WE ARE 80 MILES AWAY!!!!!!

(And now I am trying to find the article to link the Sun, the crafty buggers, have hidden it from me, but here is something similar and worse in a way as the images are obviously faked....)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Oh joy - what geekery!

I love it. Thanks to Solange Mateo Montalcini in Oxford for letting us know about 'Made with Molecules', a website that sells jewellery designed in the shape of molecules. You can get a dopamine necklace (see pic), some serotonin cufflinks, or - my personal favourite - neurotransmitter earrings. I feel I may be ascending to new heights of geekdom...

And actually, it reminds me a bit of the music made from molecules madness back in May. They should club together and form some sort of geek emporium based on molecular structures. Perhaps they could sell some of those cuddly ebola viruses as well.